Guidance on Essential Services and Functions in Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Note:

Easing border measures now allow for fully vaccinated travellers to enter into Canada for discretionary or non-essential travel. Unvaccinated foreign nationals seeking to enter for optional or discretionary (non-essential) purposes such as tourism, recreation, or entertainment continue to be prohibited entry to Canada under the Emergency Orders (the Orders) made under the Quarantine Act. Workers performing duties in an essential service or function are only exempt if they qualify for one of the specific exemptions in the Orders or the associated Group Exemptions.

Canada's National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure defines critical infrastructure as the processes, systems, facilities, technologies, networks, assets, and services essential to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians and the effective functioning of government. The Strategy classifies critical infrastructure in Canada according to ten sectors:

A number of jurisdictions within Canada have announced that business closures and border measures are in effect. Provincial and territorial announcements have highlighted that only organizations necessary to provide “essential services” are permitted to operate.

Public Safety Canada has developed a set of functions deemed essential in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic to help provinces/territories, Indigenous communities, and municipalities protect their communities while maintaining the reliable operation of critical infrastructure services and functions to ensure the health, safety, and economic well-being of the population. These services and functions can also help the private sector self-identify as essential.

These services and functions are considered essential to preserving life, health and basic societal functioning. These include, but are not limited to, the functions performed by first responders, health care workers, critical infrastructure workers (e.g., hydro and natural gas), and workers who are essential to supply critical goods such as food and medicines. Workers who deliver essential services and functions should continue to do their jobs provided they have no symptoms of COVID-19 disease. Employers of these workers should take all possible steps to protect their health and safety by implementing practices and procedures recommended by public health authorities and providing appropriate protective equipment and products. Further, workers who can perform their tasks remotely should do so.

Municipal, provincial, territorial or Indigenous jurisdictions have the legislative authority to implement and execute response actions within their jurisdictions, while Public Safety Canada has a key role to play to facilitate and enable critical infrastructure security and resilience.

As many organizations are determining what services and functions are essential to the continuity of operations and incident response, Public Safety Canada has compiled a non-exhaustive list of essential services and functions to support this effort and assist in enabling the movement of critical infrastructure workers within and between jurisdictions. These essential services and functions are advisory in nature. This guidance is not, nor should it be considered to be a federal directive or standard.

This set of essential services and functions (Annex A) was developed in consultation with industry representatives. Public Safety Canada will continually consult on, and amend the list as events unfold. For specific questions and guidance on essential services and functions, please contact the appropriate authorities in your respective jurisdiction.

Annex A: Essential Services and Functions by Critical Infrastructure Sector

Health

Water

Food

Information and Communication Technologies

Communications

Information Technology

Energy and Utilities

Electricity industry

Natural and propane gas workers in

Petroleum workers in

Transportation

Essential transportation workers are defined as workers supporting or enabling transportation functions in any transportation mode (i.e. road, air, rail, marine), in support of the continued essential movement of goods and people, in circumstances where non-essential travel is restricted. For greater clarity, this includes but is not limited to:

Manufacturing

Finance

Safety

Government

Other Services

If you are looking to determine if a specific job or service is deemed essential, please contact your provincial or territorial government, as they, not the federal government, have the legislative authority to determine what is or is not considered essential in their jurisdiction. Hyperlinks to provincial and territorial COVID-19 webpages are listed below.

For information and inquiries regarding Government of Canada financial support programs, please visit https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html#individuals, for the most up-to-date information.

The set of essential services and functions (Annex A) is meant to be broadly representative. As provinces and territories, not the federal government, have the legislative authority to determine what is or is not considered essential in their jurisdiction, we recommend that you contact your provincial or territorial government with specific questions related to what is considered essential in your jurisdiction.

Last updated: October 14, 2021

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